By David M. Greenwald
Sacramento, CA – Last week, AB 1078, authored by Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson successfully passed both the State Assembly and the State Senate and now awaits the signature of the Governor who is widely expected to sign it.
AB 1078 now extends to cover school libraries, prohibiting any censorship or removal of books, instructional materials, or curriculum resource that state law requires be reflected in instructional materials.
“I am thrilled to see AB 1078 progressing through the legislative process, with these vital amendments enhancing its impact,” stated Assemblymember Dr. Corey Jackson. “We’re taking a firm stand against book banning in California’s schools, ensuring that our students have access to a broad range of educational materials that accurately represent the rich cultural and racial diversity of our society.”
Governor Newsom stated, “California is the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them. With the passage of this legislation that bans book bans and ensures all students have textbooks, our state’s Family Agenda is now even stronger. All students deserve the freedom to read and learn about the truth, the world, and themselves.”
The bill by Assemblymember Jackson emerged in the face of what he called a need “to confront the rising tide of white Christian nationalist extremism to stop the banning of books in California’s classrooms.”
School boards like Temecula’s “garnered attention when its conservative school board majority blocked the adoption of a state-approved history textbook due to its mention of slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk in optional supporting materials.”
Jackson believes, “This decision not only stifles academic freedom but also perpetuates the exclusion of diverse perspectives from educational discourse.”
He told CalMatters last week that it was Florida that drove him to push for this legislation.
Under the law signed by Governor DeSantis, Florida school districts have “banned more than 500 books, including novels by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and biographies of baseball great Hank Aaron.”
“These disgusting tactics are part of a national strategy by conservatives to literally retell history to not reflect the truth about people of color and people who identify as LGBTQ,” Jackson said.
“We have to take a stand, and prevent what’s happening in Florida from happening in California. We are in new territory, and we cannot be afraid to act.”
Jackson believes that “school boards throughout California have been swayed by a small but vocal group of individuals who are determined to strip away the diversity that makes our state so vibrant.
“Their agenda is rooted in hate and seeks to erase the historical narratives and perspectives of people of color, as well as communities that do not conform to the social norms dictated by white Christian nationalism.”
The legislation mandates that any school within the K-12 system must secure a super majority on the school board to vote in favor of banning a book. The belief by Jackson is that this would ensure that decisions regarding the removal of books from educational settings are made with careful consideration and broad consensus.
Jackson believes that education should be a gateway to knowledge, empathy, and understanding.
He explained, “It is disheartening to witness the rise of white Christian nationalist extremism, which seeks to erase the invaluable contributions and narratives of marginalized communities. As a Christian myself, I am deeply appalled that these individuals are perverting our faith to sow division and suppress the histories of others. This will not happen on my watch. AB 1078 is a necessary response to protect our children’s access to diverse perspectives, encourage critical thinking, and promote inclusivity in our schools.”
Not everyone agrees.
The California School Boards Association (CSBA) opposes the legislation even as it believes the intentions are laudable.
Troy Flint, spokesperson for the association, said that he believes the repercussions could be negative and long-lasting.
He told CalMatters that California already possesses a lengthy public approval process for new curriculum.
The bill in his view, would simply incite further tensions between the state and the school boards which he believes under the current system of local control have a large degree of autonomy.
“We understand the motivations behind the bill, and we agree on the importance of students having access to inclusive textbooks,” Flint told CalMatters. “But we think there are less inflammatory ways to handle this.”
He also worried that this might stop schools from banning books that some feel are racist and/or homophobic.
“The implications are significant… Proponents are under the impression that the people in charge now will forever remain so,” Flint said. “A good law is just in all situations, not only in reaction to a certain environment.”
But in the California legislature and Governor’s office, after watching Temecula and other local school districts along with Florida, the tide may be against them.
“This bill stands as a bold statement against hate, intolerance, and the erasure of voices that have long been marginalized,” Assemblymember Jackson said in June.
He “invites his colleagues, education stakeholders, and community members to join him in supporting this critical legislation and ensuring that our schools remain spaces that celebrate diversity and inspire future generations.”